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From behind new eyes

Professionals rave about artificial lens available locally

Professionals rave about artificial lens available locally

August 01, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

kristinw@herald-mail.com

Harriet Campbell has spent most of her 84 years peering at the world through a pair of glasses.

Now she's giving all those old spectacles to the Lion's Club.

On June 22, Campbell, of Williamsport, became the first person to receive an intraocular lens implant with an AcrySof ReSTOR artificial lens in Washington County. Immediately after the 15-minute surgery, Campbell was "cured" of her lifelong, near-sighted vision, and the cataracts that once blurred her close-up vision, were removed.

Campbell's new-found vision comes from an insertable lens produced and developed by eye-care company Alcon Inc. In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the lens to be used to treat cataracts patients.

Optometrists and ophthalmologists are raving about the new lens, calling it a huge step forward in eye care.

"It's a very revolutionary lens," says Dr. Erik Bergman of Bergman Eye Associates in Hagerstown. Bergman, who implanted the new lens into both of Campbell's eyes, says this technology creates options for vision patients, that were never before possible.

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It works by replacing the natural human lens that is found behind the cornea and iris. Unlike a human lens that changes over time and can compromise vision quality, the ReSTOR lens is made to create perfect vision both up close and at a distance, lasting a lifetime.

"ReSTOR is really considered a breakthrough," says Dr. Arthur Epstein, chairman of the contact lens and cornea section for the American Optometric Association. "It suddenly gives (patients) back good distance vision as well as up-close (vision). The psychological impact of that is incredible."

Campbell, who, since childhood, wore glasses to see at a distance, is fully enjoying her new-found sight.

"I think the main thing was that I couldn't see faces in the distance," she says. Her distance vision was limited to about 50 feet.

Once Bergman finished implanting Campbell's new lens, she noticed a change right away.

"Immediately you can see into the distance," she says. "I especially enjoy the outside views of the trees and the scenery because it's all so clear."

Bergman says Campbell now sees well enough that she does not require glasses, even for driving.

"This is a quantum leap change," Epstein says. "Waking up and being able to see your watch is a miracle for many patients."

ReSTOR was approved by the FDA for cataract patients with and without presbyopia, a condition characterized by diminishing close-up vision as a person ages and a loss of elasticity in a lens.

A cataract occurs when proteins found in the human eye lens break down, causing the clear lens to become opaque. Cataracts make patients' vision cloudy and fuzzy.

Ophthalmologists solve the problem by removing the original lens and replacing it with an artificial one.

Before ReSTOR, cataract patients had to choose whether they wanted corrected close-up vision or improved distance vision. Without a lens, a person could only discern light from dark, Bergman explains. Any vision after removal of the human lens must be corrected by the implanted replacement.

The earlier implantable intraocular lenses only allowed a "single focus." That left cataract patients with glasses either for close-up vision or for distance vision.

But with this new lens, patients don't have to make that choice, Bergman says.

ReSTOR corrects both close-up and distance vision, giving cataract patients almost perfect sight.

That is the result for 80 percent of the people who receive the ReSTOR lens, according to the clinical studies used for FDA approval.

"The clinical results also showed that 84 percent of (566 patients) who received the AcrySof ReSTOR lens in both eyes achieved distance (vision) of 20/25 or better and (close-up vision) of 20/32 or better without correction by contacts or glasses," according to a written statement from Alcon. Close-up vision measured at 20/32 means a person can read the stock quotes found in newspapers.

The remainder of patients reported using glasses occasionally after the implant, and 1 to 2 percent said they used glasses regularly.

While ReSTOR now is approved only for patients with cataracts, eye doctors can see how ReSTOR might revolutionize the vision field.

"Right now, we're doing most of the people with cataracts," Bergman says. "But the time will come when people who don't have cataracts will want to have this done."

If a technology works to solve a problem and there are limited to no side affects, then it is safe and effective and there is no reason not to consider it for other patients, Bergman says.

For example, as people age and they notice deterioration of their vision, they might opt to have a lens replacement surgery with ReSTOR, rather than getting bifocals, Bergman says.

"If you have the ReSTOR lens when you are 40, you'll never have a cataract," Bergman adds.

ReSTOR has been distributed in the United States since May.

Each lens costs $900, and surgeon fees can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per eye, Bergman says.

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